November 13, 2013, 5:18 PM

Steady as she goes

Desktop web sales will grow 13% to 15% in November and December, comScore says.

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ComScore’s holiday desktop web sales growth forecast is in, and it eerily resembles last year’s actual results.

U.S. desktop web sales in the holiday shopping months of November and December will grow in the double digits again this year, with the growth rate coming in at between 13% and 15%—about the same percentage growth as holiday 2012, the web measurement firm said today.

That would put desktop web sales during those crucial holiday months at between $47.8 and $48.6 billion. Last year desktop web sales grew 14% in November and December to $42.3 billion, comScore says, falling short of its forecast of 17% growth. In its post-mortem, comScore blamed the shortfall on an early December shopping lull that even a late-season online spending surge couldn’t overcome.

The shorter holiday season this year will hinder online spending growth, comScore says. There are only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, compared with 32 days in 2012. What’s more, consumers have four, not five, full weekends in that timeframe to snag gifts.

One holiday gift for e-retailers will be strong mobile sales, comScore says. It predicts 12-13% of total online sales in all of Q4 (not just November and December) will be mobile—mobile’s highest percentage of total e-commerce sales for the quarter yet. The firm adds that mobile sales may well approach $10 billion in Q4.

The numbers are comScore’s preliminary holiday web sales predictions. The firm says it will release its official forecast in about a week after analyzing mid-to late November e-commerce sales.

ComScore only recently began reporting mobile sales estimates. For its desktop e-retail estimates comScore draws on online purchase data from its panel of about 1 million U.S. online shoppers and excludes automobile and auction sales. For mobile commerce estimates, comScore says it surveys Internet users about their spending by platform across product categories and calibrates those numbers according to behavioral data it has on desktop e-commerce. Like desktop estimates, mobile commerce estimates also exclude automobile and auction sales.

In terms of desktop web sales, comScore forecasts Cyber Monday or the Monday after Thanksgiving to post the biggest numbers for a single shopping day during the season, raking in $1.8 billion, up 20% compared to the same day last year. Shoppers will also be heading to the web to buy late into the season, comScore says, with 25% of desktop sales for the holidays occurring on Dec. 15 or later. The firm also predicts one work week (Monday-Friday) during the season will rake in $1 billion or more in desktop web sales each day. It says that week will most likely be the week beginning Dec. 2, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

When it comes to mobile, the impressive gains won’t only be in sales but also in amount of time spent on retail sites over the holiday season. As of September 2013, 59% of the total time spent with retailers online came from tablets and smartphones. Tablets accounted for 15% of time spent with retailers and smartphones accounted for 44%. That marks the first time consumers spent more time accessing retailers online via smartphones than via desktop computers, comScore says. 

Holiday gift buyers will also likely showroom, that is, according to comScore's definition, view a retail item in person with the intention of completing the transaction via the Internet. In a July comScore poll, about one in three consumers said they showroom, with 11% saying they do so often, 76% occasionally and another 11% only for major purchases. ComScore says the percentages add up to 98% and not 100% because of rounding.

The main reason for showrooming, according to another October comScore poll, is to find a better price online, cited by 73% of showroomers, followed by 44% who said they want to see the product in person before they buying online. In the same October poll, 39% of showroomers had already started their holiday shopping compared to 31% of non-showroomers.


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